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From The Deep End

La Grange, Texas

December 15, 2019

“Come on - thinking of something!” My mind raced.

There I stood in the parking lot of Clemson House ready to say goodbye to Lucian after dropping him off at Clemson for his first year.

He seemed ready. Was I?

I had not planned ahead. My mind was blank. What memorable words would I say to him as I hugged him goodbye. Zip. Noddah. Null set.

“Jump in the deep end,” I heard myself say to him as I fought back my emotions.

Where had that come from, I thought. God, that sounded good. Maybe I channeled Jeff Harris and said something memorable at just the right time. He nodded, we hugged and he turned to walk to his dorm.

As I drove out of Clemson, I ruminated on “jump in the deep end.” Yeah, that wasn’t bad. It’s a metaphor that can take you a lot of places. Standing in the shallow end - that’s safe but certainly not challenging or rewarding. The deep end. That’s where all the fun is - where you can dive, play Marco Polo, sneak up on people underwater. The deep end means you need to pay attention, stay active and overcome your trepidation of not being able to stand, not being able to play it safe.

Hours later I arrived back in Northern Virginia having convinced myself I could turn this deep end thing into something useful. Throughout his freshman year, I would send Lucian emails containing fatherly wisdom about study habits, eating right, time management - all the things I wished my dad had been there to counsel me on (In hindsight, my dad wouldn’t have; that’s not the person he was.) I’d close such emails with the valediction “From the deep end.”

I continued this practice through Lucian’s four years at Clemson. “Deep end” evolved into “deeper end” after that first year and at some point I adopted the moniker “Coach Dad” to symbolize that the advice wasn’t a “parental command but a coach’s observation.” I also adopted the practice with Courtney.

Every now and then both of them would say something that made me think that maybe my thoughts from the deep(er) end were sinking in. Nah, who am I fooling? :) No matter, it served as a way for me to pass along advice that I felt was important to pass along. It has also served me each day of my walkabout as I remind myself to jump into the deep end.

As for the photo at the top of this post, Lucian may be the only Clemson graduate to receive an oil painting from a world-class, award-winning artist for his graduation. Wendy was so wonderful to paint this painting for Lucian for his graduation. It’s a very special painting to both Lucian and me.

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